|Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Delegates ponder pregnancy on death row
From staff reports
The House Courts of Justice Committee deferred action on a bill (HB134) that would ban executions of pregnant women, but the measure generated an unusual discussion among lawmakers.
"Is it possible to get pregnant on death row?" asked Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, the committee's chairman.
Del. Bob Marshall, R- Manassas, is sponsoring the bill. He said the measure would mirror a federal ban on executing pregnant prisoners. But some committee members questioned whether the state needs such legislation.
Virginia has not executed a woman since 1912. A Pittsylvania County woman last year became the first woman sentenced to death since Virginia reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The panel may reshape Marshall's bill into a measure that requires the Department of Corrections to include a prohibition on executing pregnant women in its policies.
- Michael Sluss
House committee rejects
impeachment threat in same-sex marriages
RICHMOND - A House of Delegates committee killed legislation Monday that could have subjected a judge to impeachment for lifting the state's ban on same-sex marriages.
Del. Bob Marshall, R- Manassas, said his bill (HB 727) could have discouraged "out of control judges" from scuttling a gay marriage prohibition that most state lawmakers want to preserve. But most members of the House Courts of Justice Committee considered an impeachment threat extreme. All but three members voted to kill Marshall's bill.
Two high-profile court rulings last year brought renewed attention to the gay marriage issue. The U.S. Supreme Court declared Texas' ban on consensual sodomy unconstitutional. And a Massachusetts appellate court ruled that same sex couples have a right to marry in that state.
Marshall said he wanted to head off such a possibility in Virginia by warning judges they could face impeachment if they refused to uphold Virginia's gay marriage ban.
Though committee members in both parties shared Marshall's desire to preserve Virginia's gay marriage prohibition, they questioned the wisdom of threatening judges with impeachment.
"As much as I agree with Del. Marshall on his concerns about where we're going as a nation and ... how we're going to defend this provision of Virginia law, I don't think this is a mechanism to do so," said House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry County, argued that Marshall's bill disregards constitutional separation of powers.
Griffith said lawmakers already have sufficient tools to deal with maverick judges, because the General Assembly can refuse to reappoint them when their terms expire.
- Michael Sluss